An Action News Jax Investigation has found that Jacksonville code enforcement officers have cited Democrats twice as often as Republicans for campaign sign violations over the past five years.
City code enforcement cited Republican candidates 168 times for campaign sign violations during that time.
The city cited Democrats 335 times.
“This was the eighth time that I’ve run for office and the first time that I’ve gotten citations,” said Democrat Mia Jones, who ran for Duval County Tax Collector in 2018.
Jones had to pay more than $1,000 in fines for campaign sign violations.
Jacksonville code enforcement cited Jones 26 times during her tax collector campaign.
Her Republican opponent Jim Overton was cited just once.
“For there to be that big of a discrepancy, it is really disheartening,” Jones said.
#Duval County Democratic Party chair @dan636 calls it “selective enforcement.” My @ActionNewsJax Investigation has uncovered a major discrepancy when it comes to who gets fined in #Jacksonville for campaign sign violations, and who doesn’t. #ANJaxInvestigates at 5:45 on CBS47 pic.twitter.com/IjHqVlBrTk— Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) March 7, 2019
In 2018, Jacksonville code enforcement officers cited Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum four times more often than now-Gov. Republican Ron DeSantis.
The rules for campaign signs
Political signs can only be placed on private property with the permission of the property owner.
There can only be one sign per candidate on the same property.
They’re not allowed on public property, including roads, medians, sidewalks, public parks or government buildings.
Each citation comes with a $55 fine.
The candidate is responsible for paying up, no matter who put the sign in the wrong place.
Mayor’s administration denies it’s politically motivated
Action News Jax brought the findings to Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.
“At no time is the political affiliation part of the consideration,” Hughes said.
Action News Jax asked Hughes if he thought Democratic candidates were breaking the rules more frequently.
“I wouldn’t say it that way. The data is what it is,” Hughes said. “It could be the volume of signs. It could be the nature of where people are putting signs.”
Duval County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Henry said the party trains local candidates on where signs can go and where they’re not allowed.
“I don’t think that Democrats are more likely to put signs in places that they’re not supposed to. So, obviously, there is selective enforcement in how they’re being picked up,” Henry said.
Henry said he’s not convinced that the rules are being enforced in a nonpartisan way.
“I can’t say that I am surprised that our government, particularly in Jacksonville, is partisan,” Henry said.
Jacksonville code enforcement did not hand out a single citation to presidential candidates during the most recent race for the White House.
Hughes said the revenue from campaign sign violation citations funds litter cleanup efforts and pays a handful of part-time cleanup employees.
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